Donovan to face old friend at Arkansas
When Billy Donovan looks across the floor this afternoon and sees Arkansas coach John Pelphrey, he won't necessarily be filled with pride about the former Florida assistant.
More likely, it'll be pure happiness.
Florida will play at Arkansas today at 3, marking the first regular-season meeting between Donovan and Pelphrey. Pelphrey played three seasons at Kentucky with Donovan as an assistant coach to Rick Pitino, then was an assistant to Donovan for eight seasons at Marshall and Florida.
The Gators will have their hands full taking on the Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena, and playing Pelphrey just adds to the challenge, Donovan said.
"I never think it's easy playing someone you're so closed to,'' he said. "Being at Kentucky with John as an assistant, and then having John come with me at Marshall and here at Florida and him being such a big part of everything that's happened and what we've been able to build here, it's always tough competing against someone like that. . . . . He's one of the closest people to me in my life. In what we do for our jobs, I don't think that John will ever be able to do as good a job as the type of person he is. That's the thing I probably admire and respect the most about him, is the type of person he is and the relationship he and I have.''
Pelphrey, who named his daughter after Donovan, is in his first season with the Razorbacks. Earlier this week, he called Donovan "the most influential male in my life outside of my father.''
"As a coach, he basically raised me,'' Pelphrey said Thursday during the SEC teleconference. "I had no idea what I was doing when it came to recruiting. I spent a year with coach (Eddie) Sutton at Oklahoma State. I'll never forget my first day at Marshall. I was at my desk with a phone and a legal pad and I'm like, OK, what do I do now. I basically spent the next three days in his office trying to figure out what I needed to do recruiting wise and all those types of things. He's always been somebody there for me, incredibly giving, teaching. He's just an important guy to me.'
Florida has won 13 of its last 15 games and is coming off a week-long bye. Both teams are coming off impressive wins: Arkansas won by 20 over SEC West leader Mississippi State Wednesday night and the Gators dismantled then-No. 13 Vanderbilt.
Pelphrey is one of three former Donovan assistants who are now head coaches, including Anthony Grant at VCU and Donnie Jones at Marshall. It's something that makes Donovan happy, yet a little nostalgic.
"I think one thing it makes me do is it makes me feel like I'm getting older,'' he said. "There's guys on these guys staffs that were players that are now working for these guys. I'm happy for those guys because they're good guys and they deserve it and they worked hard and I think they have great respect for the game. I think they have great respect for kids. And with that being said I think anytime you can help somebody take the next step in their life, it's great to able to be a part of that. John is where he's at because of the job he has done as an assistant and as a head coach. The same thing can be said for Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones. All those guys were extremely loyal and worked very hard and were very close to me and such a part of trying to help build Florida. When you look at it, you look at these guys every single day and when they get the opportunity, it's an incredible thing to be able to sit back and look at that.''